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A few months ago it was reported that trust in business has plummeted, yet trust is considered a key determinant of success. This should be alarming to business leaders. Given that more than ever they are asking employees for discretionary effort – and to pull them through tough times.

    • “Data from the 10th Edelman Trust Barometer was launched recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The Trust Barometer surveys 4500 high-income, tertiary-educated people in 20 countries, and now includes data from Australia.

Three-quarters of Australians surveyed say they trust companies far less today than they did a year ago, with only 43 percent saying they trust business to do what is right.

And just 19 per cent have faith in CEOs of our major companies.”

I remember my father saying to me as a child ‘Do as I say, not what I do.’ He kind of said it in jest. But I was always left somewhat confused. You can’t pick and choose the times you want to live by values and those you don’t. It is in everything that you do, say or the way you behave. Only after a long, consistent approach is trust built. And it can be taken away in a moment.

Which might be why the Australian public has voiced its opinion so dramatically.

What can leaders do to build trust back into the business and the community around it? It won’t happen overnight. It may take years, it is a journey, not an activity. It is an ongoing relentless program of authenticity. And that, for most seems like hard work.

Leadership teams throughout the country are making some of the hardest business decisions they’ve ever made during their careers which may be contributing to this decline in trust – or is it simply how tough messages are being communicated?

Stuff happens in business, including the GFC, loss of contracts or new regulations. The point is how much do we share with our people – will it scare them if we are to open so they begin to think ‘I best look for something else’ or do they think ‘we best pull together on this one’.

I argue if you treat your people like children (and insulate them from the real business issues) then they will act like kids. We must be real, yet reassuring, consistent and pragmatic. Simply we must do what we say we are going to do. All day every day, over and over and then there will be trust.


Reader Interactions


  1. Mum used to say – ‘Good, better best, never let it rest, til your good is better and your better best.’ I suppose that means it is a journey.

  2. I think trust is also a bigger & bigger issue in the supplier->customer relationship. Running a web-based business I find it difficult to build trust with my customers, and I’d imagine it’s very much to do with the fact that they can’t drop into my shop every week to have a chat.

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